International migration occupies a prominent place in public debate in both OECD and non-OECD countries. But while many countries of destination increasingly perceive immigration as a threat to social cohesion and try to limit migration inflows, a growing number of countries of origin include emigration in their development strategies, implicitly advocating more labour mobility. The current governance of migration is therefore characterised by a lack of international co-operation, which could be detrimental not only for the countries of emigration, but also for those of transit and destination.
Tackling the Policy Challenges of Migration is the product of three years of research of a project entitled "Effective Partnerships for Better Migration Management and Development", benefiting from the generous financial support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago and we are grateful for the opportunity their support provided.
Co-operation over international migration is in gridlock. Despite their growing need for foreign labour OECD countries have implemented increasingly restrictive migration policies, without always taking into account their effects on other countries. But why, exactly, have policy makers been so reluctant to co-operate on migration issues? And what are the implications of noncooperation? Do migration policies only affect migrant-sending countries or do they also have a cost for the countries implementing them? These questions are occupying increasing political space in OECD countries, and also in many developing countries, which have become, simultaneously, places of origin, transit and destination. Beyond the impact of emigration on development, a number of countries in the South are also facing the challenges of immigration, particularly in terms of social cohesion.
This book provides a contribution to the current debate on international migration by focusing on three elements in the standard migration policy dialogue: the regulation of flows, the integration of immigrants and the impact of labour mobility on development (Figure 0.1).
Introduction: Facts, perceptions, reactions
The recent global financial crisis, Arab Spring and famine in Africa have drawn added attention to migration, an issue closely linked to growing global interdependence and environmental factors. Contrary to widespread belief there is more South-South than South-North migration. The financial crisis has made local populations more hostile to immigration, perceived as a threat to jobs and social cohesion. Migration policies have become more restrictive and immigrants greater targets of hostility and prejudice. At the same time, many developing countries seek to benefit from the export of surplus labour and rely heavily on money sent back by migrants. All these factors provide challenges both to sending and recipient countries. Migration strategies are often unilateral and expensive. Three interlocking issues need to be addressed. How can flows be regulated – or is that even possible? Once immigrants have arrived in receiving countries, can they be integrated and if so how? And what is the nexus between migration and development in the immigrants’ home countries?
Global governance and the regulation of migration flows
At a time when national policies on immigration are becoming increasingly restrictive no comprehensive international legal framework governing migration exists. Unlike trade and capital flows, which are subject to governance and regulation, immigration is not. Though there has been growing interest in the link between immigration and development, receiving countries often seek to use development aid to reduce immigration. A major problem is that immigration is asymmetrical: workers from the North are not interested in going to countries of the poorer South. Furthermore public opinion in the North, especially among the poorest and least educated, is increasingly hostile to immigration even if government policies, perhaps driven by organised lobbies, do not fully reflect public attitudes. Non-cooperative policies may even be counter-productive. Restrictive policies are often expensive, have human costs and do not necessarily work. Economists point to the benefits of immigration, though their views are not often heard.
Immigrant integration in the South
Although South-South migrants face much of the same resentment from the locally born over jobs and wages as their South-North counterparts, the issues in South-South flows need to be analysed from a quite different standpoint. Whereas Northern receiving countries tend to be relatively homogenous in terms of language, culture and ethnicity, this is often not the case in the fractionalised and multi-ethnic countries of the South where borders are porous and immigration controls lax. An examination of immigrant experience in West Africa and in particular Ghana shows that governments do not give priority to integration, and Northern models of assimilation and multiculturalism are not necessarily applicable. Lack of integration can lead to the formation of ghettos with associated acute poverty and disease. The problems of refugees and stranded migrants add an extra dimension to the issues of social cohesion and integration.
Emigration, labour markets and development
Migration is a major factor in development and economic convergence. It can produce substantial consequent changes in labour markets at home and in social conditions, including wage levels, household welfare, food security, child welfare and the role of women as workers and carers. Migrants’ remittances can also have impacts on work, productivity and education. The level of remittances appears to be closely related to economic conditions in host countries. It is not only the households of migrants, male or female, that are affected: there are impacts on those not sending migrants. Migration seems to have a positive effect on income, production and spending on education. The relationship between "lost labour" and remittances is one that merits further study.
Rethinking the governance of international migration
Governments need to consider governance of migration bearing in mind the three objectives of greater flexibility of flows, improved integration and a better effect of labour mobility on development. Steps towards greater flexibility imply that host countries recognise needs, explain the benefits of immigration and foster circularity, whereby migrants may come and go more freely. Losers of immigration need to be compensated, though it may be hard to identify them. There are several ways of doing this. Better integration in the South includes the protection of migrants’ rights and positive measures against discrimination as well as steps to improve social cohesion. Labour markets need to be consolidated and efforts made to put human capital to use in source countries. Migrants should be helped to get the best financial terms for their remittances. The three objectives are mutually interactive.
Conclusion: Towards effective partnerships
The stalemate over the global governance of migration may be more apparent than real. It could be resolved by greater international co-operation: bilateral, regional and, in certain cases, global. Decentralisation is another element, as problems may be more effectively solved at the local level and if more actors are involved from all sectors of society. Migration policies should not be seen in isolation from others, such as those affecting agriculture, labour, trade and development. There are policy trade-offs to be made in the areas, for example, of trade and protectionism. Developing countries need to recognise that emigration brings social costs as well as financial benefits. There may be little incentive for governments to introduce necessary reforms. The example of several former origin countries shows the importance of implementing structural reforms rather than relying on migration. Even though it has a role to play, the challenge is to transform emigration into sustainable development at home.
Add to Marked List